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a review of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by Randall Landers
originally published in Orion 24, March 1987

What can I say? Fantastic? Yes. Hilarious? Yes. Terrific? Yes. But it still didn’t quite capture the feel of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (still my favorite film). The actors looked wonderful. Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, Doohan, Takei, Nichols and Koenig all seemed to enjoy their roles. The ditsy marine biologist was what many in middle-America perceive as the typical Californian. All the other characters were basically in unimportant roles. The two major exceptions: Sarek and Amanda. I’m so happy to have them in this and any other movie that I can overlook their small roles. Sarek’s was clearly the better of the two, but I wished we’d seen more of Amanda. Saavik has been shipped off to Never-Never-Land with Chapel and Rand (I couldn’t ever hear what they were saying over the whalesong sound effects). I loved the sequence with the Kh’myr Klingon shouting, "There can be no peace as long as James T. Kirk lives!" And someone in the, Federation gallery calling him, "You asshole!"

The direction was a little too shabby at times (I can hear Nimoy shouting on the set, "Okay, let’s shake those cameras, guys! Now, Bill, you can start bobbing your shoulders up and down!"). The music (a reworking of Bakshi’s The Lords of the Rings and the pilot Alexander—which also starred Shatner) left a bit to be desired...the stirring Star Trek theme should have been more prominent in the film.

The special effects were quite adequate, thank you. But, to be honest, I could have done without the giant flaming dummy sequence. Every Star Trek movie has a what-the-fuck-were-they-thinking scene or sequence. With The Motion Picture, it was twenty minutes of a V’ger flyover. With The Wrath of Khan, it was Scotty bringing his nephew to the bridge. With The Search for Spock, it was replacing Kirstie Alley with Robin Curtis... "Admiral, David is dead...*yawn*." With The Voyage Home, it was the flaming dummy. *SNORT*

After seeing the promotional clips, I was more than a little afraid that too many one-liners might make the film seem more like a Roger Corman version of Star Trek rather than what I might consider Star Trek, but I was gratified to see I was mistaken. I found the situational humor to be rather funny. It’s not as funny at times as "The Trouble with Tribbles" or "A Piece of the Action," but it is pretty darn funny. I think the scene with Spock swimming with the whales is one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in a movie in a long time, even though I think Shatner overreacts just a tad too much.

Don’t misunderstand me’ I really liked this movie. But as with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, there are some problems here and there. Mainly, for me, the time paradoxes were just too far out of line, considering the great care the television series’ episodes took to never cause any changes in the past (i.e. our present). The major one is probably Scotty’s exchange of transparent aluminum for the Plexiglas he needed. It seems to me a side comment to McCoy along the lines of "Doctor, thot’s not the formula for transparent aluminum—I changed a few of the atoms around!" or even "Don’t worry, Doctor. I’ve put a disk virus into the computer that’ll erase everything this time tomorrow!" would’ve taken care of the problem completely. The paradox with Kirk’s "Franklin" glasses is less annoying, but still there. Also, I’m afraid that the crew of the aircraft carrier Enterprise and the hospital will have a fine time since Chekov left them his clothes, his communicator and his phaser.

I suspect that there’s alien intervention in much of this. There’s a clue with the line about "Mister Sulu, have breaking thrusters fired?" Sulu snaps out of his time-travel induced fugue and replies "Yes, sir" but the implication I got was that he didn’t fire them. Someone...something else had.

All in all, though Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was indeed a voyage home. It restores hope in the franchise and our characters as we see them at the end, heading out into space, seeking out new life, new civilizations... Perhaps this film, better than all others, captures that at its ending.


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